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Diamond Princess: February 15, 2015 Auckland to Sydney. Mini Suite D522. Ages 65 and 72. Much research and decision making went into arranging the details for this marvelous trip. For us the priority on a cruise is the port experiences and the comfort of the ship. Pre-cruise: One early decision we made was to take a lunch time flight from our local airport to Los Angeles and stay overnight near LAX before taking a 9 pm flight on Air New Zealand to Auckland. Our choice was the Embassy Suites North LAX that has a very efficient free shuttle to and from the airport. On the morning of our Air NZ flight we took advantage of the nearby Ocean Express Trolley to go to Manhattan Beach. We extended our stay at the hotel until 5 pm that allowed us to have an afternoon nap and shower. We flew to Auckland in Economy class on Air NZ and after a glitch, on their part, in the booking we ended up in bulkhead seats. The seats were extremely narrow! I took a sleeping pill (after consulting with my doctor) and slept for about 6 hrs. Our requested low-fat meals were delicious and lots of water and juice was available. On arrival in Auckland there was lots of walking to get through immigration and customs to the Super Shuttle that took us to our bed and breakfast. Auckland: Sunderland House bed and breakfast was fabulous! It is in the Herne Bay area of Auckland and a 5-minute walk to the outer link bus system and several close-by restaurants. I was expecting Auckland to be on a flat coastal plain – the big surprise was how hilly it was with quite steep streets. We certainly found muscles that had not been used for a while. Our first afternoon was spent at the Auckland Zoo that has free flight aviaries showing the native birds of NZ ecosystems. Lunch at the zoo cafe included the first of many NZ meat pies and ginger beers (non-alcoholic). The following day we went via ferry to Waiheke Island and ended up on a Sculpture Walk http://sculptureonthegulf.co.nz that is held every two years. The walking track was beautiful with amazing views of Auckland and other islands but very rigorous for those of us who are not used to hilly terrain. (I quickly learned that we needed to allow double the time if we ever asked how long it would take to get somewhere). We were most glad to see the wine and food tent at the end of the trail. Our last full day in Auckland took us to the War Museum for the Maori exhibits and an afternoon sailing at the Maritime Museum on the schooner “Ted Ashby”. As it was Valentines Day we ate at Andiamo, a lovely Italian restaurant in Herne Bay. The following morning we walked down to the beach at Herne Bay and then headed to the cruise terminal. Cruise: Embarkation was well organized and flowed well. It took no more than 30 minutes from dropping off luggage to being on board. The Diamond was a new ship for us and we had a port side mini-suite instead of our usual starboard so it took us a while to get oriented. (The port cabin was to allow us views of the opera house when we entered Sydney Harbor.) The mini-suites on the Diamond have bidets that we grew to appreciate. We were in the Vivaldi dining room on a table for two. Every evening the head-waiter gave us the menu for the next day and the chef prepared lovely low-sodium meals based on our choices. 40+ folks attended our Cruise Critic meet and greet that was on our first sea day. I like to have a cup of coffee mid-morning so if I host a meet and greet I provide (at my cost) tea/coffee service for the group. Three senior officers attended as well as the dynamic cruise director. The hour flew by quickly as faces were put to names and new friends were made. One of my favorite places onboard was the Japanese Bath. During the day swimsuits are required with the more traditional no-clothing approach in the late afternoon and evening. We went to a few shows on sea days but mostly watched movies in our cabin after a long day in port. Hubby tried the gym but found the machines too complicated. (At home he goes to a gym 3x a week). Excursions: We prefer small group excursions so primarily use independent vendors. Tauranga: As recommended on Cruise Critic we had an excellent Jim Archer tour that took us to a beautiful beach viewpoint where we saw fishermen at work, a Kiwi farm where we sampled fruit and drank juice, and a Maori cultural center at Rotorua. Jim was a fount of knowledge. Extended description http://www.archertours.co.nz/Tours-NZ/Cruise-Ship-Shore-Excursions Akaroa: This is a tender port so we decided on an easy day and went on the two hour Cityline/ French connection tour. It took us in and out of bays, stopped at Barry’s cheese factory where I purchased cheese for pre-dinner snacks, and up high on the coastal road to a bar/restaurant with tremendous views and time for a quick lunch. Dunedin: As I’m a biologist I had to go on a tour to see the Royal Albatross and Otago Peninsula wildlife. We were in a group of 12 folks with Elm Wildlife. What a fabulous day but did we ache afterwards! Extended description http://www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz/our-tours/cruise-ship-shore-excursion Scenic cruising Fiordland: Fortunately the seas were calm, the sun was shining, and we were able to enter all the beautiful fjords. Milford Sound is stunning. Sea Day: The Australian immigration folks did individual checks of everybody’s paperwork by appointment in one of the dining rooms. It took about 10 minutes to wait in line then be checked. Customs is done when exiting the ship in Sydney. Hobart, Tasmania: This excursion was arranged for by a Cruise Critic roll call member so most of us knew each other. It was our only drizzly day. First we went to Mt Field national park for a walk (downhill) on the magnificent Tall Trees trail with huge gum trees and an understory of tree ferns. We disturbed a type of kangaroo that lives in the forest and he/she took off into the underbrush. The trail ended at Horseshoe Falls with a short walk to Russell Falls and then along a stream to the car park. It felt like a scene from Jurassic Park. Our last stop was at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and a lovely picnic lunch. Bonorong is a special place where you can get up close with the animals. They had guides at each area to explain the needs of each animal group. A volunteer was feeding baby wombats while we were there. Extended description: http://www.eyeseetasmania.com.au/bonorong-wildlife-sanctuary-and-mt-field.html Melbourne: Princess excursion Yarra River Cruise, Gardens, and City Tour. After a drive into the city we went on the Yarra River cruise; Coffee and tea was served. The commentary on the cruise could not be heard well; thankfully our excellent guide filled us in afterwards. We then had an enjoyable time at the Fitzroy Garden and Conservatory. The Shrine of Remembrance was most poignant. My grandfather fought with the British Forces in Gallipoli so this was a special place for me to visit. . At our request the tour bus dropped us off before the pier and we walked along the beach for a while before returning to the ship. Sydney: I woke up at about 5:00 am to see where we were and to my amazement we were about to sail by the opera house –wow! After the photo-op we went back to bed for a while then a 7:00 am breakfast in the dining room before a 9:00 am disembarkation. Customs was fairly speedy and we then wheeled the luggage to our hotel –the Park Hyatt—that is next to the Cruise Terminal. (We stayed here due to getting a Chase Hyatt card.) It is a beautiful hotel with impeccable service. After a walk around the Rocks, and lunch in a harbor café, we had a nap before our evening at the opera. “Madama Butterfly” was a dream come true….. Afterwards, with all the city and harbor lights twinkling, we strolled back around the harbor to our hotel that sits under the end of the harbor bridge. It was a memorable end to our cruise experience. Post Cruise: When I booked our return airline tickets I was able to get Premium Economy tickets on Air New Zealand for $200 each above the cost of economy. The same glitch that occurred on the outbound flight placed us in regular not preferred seats on the Sydney to Auckland leg of the journey but as it was a short-ish flight that was okay. For the Auckland to LAX leg we were in Premium Economy and what a difference that made! We had wide adjustable seats with lots of legroom. Service was definitely a step up from Economy and very enjoyable. We both slept well. Again we spent the night at the same hotel near LAX but our bodies did not seem to know what time of day it was so we did not sleep well at all. The next morning we repacked our bags and sent everything through as checked baggage on our next flights (Southwest). Thankfully we had arranged for a car to pick us up at our local airport and we were back home for dinner. It has taken me about four days to get over the worst of the jetlag and from experience I know it will be about two weeks before I’m totally readjusted to the altitude we live at. Would I recommend this cruise – absolutely! Our only regret is not being able to spend more time in New Zealand before the cruise began.  

NZ to OZ. February 15, 2015 Auckland to Sydney.

Diamond Princess Cruise Review by Alaskanb

Trip Details
Diamond Princess: February 15, 2015 Auckland to Sydney. Mini Suite D522. Ages 65 and 72.
Much research and decision making went into arranging the details for this marvelous trip. For us the priority on a cruise is the port experiences and the comfort of the ship.
Pre-cruise:
One early decision we made was to take a lunch time flight from our local airport to Los Angeles and stay overnight near LAX before taking a 9 pm flight on Air New Zealand to Auckland. Our choice was the Embassy Suites North LAX that has a very efficient free shuttle to and from the airport. On the morning of our Air NZ flight we took advantage of the nearby Ocean Express Trolley to go to Manhattan Beach. We extended our stay at the hotel until 5 pm that allowed us to have an afternoon nap and shower.
We flew to Auckland in Economy class on Air NZ and after a glitch, on their part, in the booking we ended up in bulkhead seats. The seats were extremely narrow! I took a sleeping pill (after consulting with my doctor) and slept for about 6 hrs. Our requested low-fat meals were delicious and lots of water and juice was available.
On arrival in Auckland there was lots of walking to get through immigration and customs to the Super Shuttle that took us to our bed and breakfast.
Auckland:
Sunderland House bed and breakfast was fabulous! It is in the Herne Bay area of Auckland and a 5-minute walk to the outer link bus system and several close-by restaurants.
I was expecting Auckland to be on a flat coastal plain – the big surprise was how hilly it was with quite steep streets. We certainly found muscles that had not been used for a while.
Our first afternoon was spent at the Auckland Zoo that has free flight aviaries showing the native birds of NZ ecosystems. Lunch at the zoo cafe included the first of many NZ meat pies and ginger beers (non-alcoholic).
The following day we went via ferry to Waiheke Island and ended up on a Sculpture Walk http://sculptureonthegulf.co.nz that is held every two years. The walking track was beautiful with amazing views of Auckland and other islands but very rigorous for those of us who are not used to hilly terrain. (I quickly learned that we needed to allow double the time if we ever asked how long it would take to get somewhere). We were most glad to see the wine and food tent at the end of the trail.
Our last full day in Auckland took us to the War Museum for the Maori exhibits and an afternoon sailing at the Maritime Museum on the schooner “Ted Ashby”. As it was Valentines Day we ate at Andiamo, a lovely Italian restaurant in Herne Bay.
The following morning we walked down to the beach at Herne Bay and then headed to the cruise terminal.
Cruise:
Embarkation was well organized and flowed well. It took no more than 30 minutes from dropping off luggage to being on board. The Diamond was a new ship for us and we had a port side mini-suite instead of our usual starboard so it took us a while to get oriented. (The port cabin was to allow us views of the opera house when we entered Sydney Harbor.) The mini-suites on the Diamond have bidets that we grew to appreciate.
We were in the Vivaldi dining room on a table for two. Every evening the head-waiter gave us the menu for the next day and the chef prepared lovely low-sodium meals based on our choices.
40+ folks attended our Cruise Critic meet and greet that was on our first sea day. I like to have a cup of coffee mid-morning so if I host a meet and greet I provide (at my cost) tea/coffee service for the group. Three senior officers attended as well as the dynamic cruise director. The hour flew by quickly as faces were put to names and new friends were made.
One of my favorite places onboard was the Japanese Bath. During the day swimsuits are required with the more traditional no-clothing approach in the late afternoon and evening.
We went to a few shows on sea days but mostly watched movies in our cabin after a long day in port.
Hubby tried the gym but found the machines too complicated. (At home he goes to a gym 3x a week).
Excursions:
We prefer small group excursions so primarily use independent vendors.
Tauranga: As recommended on Cruise Critic we had an excellent Jim Archer tour that took us to a beautiful beach viewpoint where we saw fishermen at work, a Kiwi farm where we sampled fruit and drank juice, and a Maori cultural center at Rotorua. Jim was a fount of knowledge. Extended description http://www.archertours.co.nz/Tours-NZ/Cruise-Ship-Shore-Excursions
Akaroa: This is a tender port so we decided on an easy day and went on the two hour Cityline/ French connection tour. It took us in and out of bays, stopped at Barry’s cheese factory where I purchased cheese for pre-dinner snacks, and up high on the coastal road to a bar/restaurant with tremendous views and time for a quick lunch.
Dunedin: As I’m a biologist I had to go on a tour to see the Royal Albatross and Otago Peninsula wildlife. We were in a group of 12 folks with Elm Wildlife. What a fabulous day but did we ache afterwards! Extended description http://www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz/our-tours/cruise-ship-shore-excursion
Scenic cruising Fiordland: Fortunately the seas were calm, the sun was shining, and we were able to enter all the beautiful fjords. Milford Sound is stunning.
Sea Day: The Australian immigration folks did individual checks of everybody’s paperwork by appointment in one of the dining rooms. It took about 10 minutes to wait in line then be checked. Customs is done when exiting the ship in Sydney.
Hobart, Tasmania: This excursion was arranged for by a Cruise Critic roll call member so most of us knew each other. It was our only drizzly day. First we went to Mt Field national park for a walk (downhill) on the magnificent Tall Trees trail with huge gum trees and an understory of tree ferns. We disturbed a type of kangaroo that lives in the forest and he/she took off into the underbrush. The trail ended at Horseshoe Falls with a short walk to Russell Falls and then along a stream to the car park. It felt like a scene from Jurassic Park. Our last stop was at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and a lovely picnic lunch. Bonorong is a special place where you can get up close with the animals. They had guides at each area to explain the needs of each animal group. A volunteer was feeding baby wombats while we were there. Extended description: http://www.eyeseetasmania.com.au/bonorong-wildlife-sanctuary-and-mt-field.html
Melbourne: Princess excursion Yarra River Cruise, Gardens, and City Tour. After a drive into the city we went on the Yarra River cruise; Coffee and tea was served. The commentary on the cruise could not be heard well; thankfully our excellent guide filled us in afterwards. We then had an enjoyable time at the Fitzroy Garden and Conservatory. The Shrine of Remembrance was most poignant. My grandfather fought with the British Forces in Gallipoli so this was a special place for me to visit. . At our request the tour bus dropped us off before the pier and we walked along the beach for a while before returning to the ship.
Sydney: I woke up at about 5:00 am to see where we were and to my amazement we were about to sail by the opera house –wow! After the photo-op we went back to bed for a while then a 7:00 am breakfast in the dining room before a 9:00 am disembarkation. Customs was fairly speedy and we then wheeled the luggage to our hotel –the Park Hyatt—that is next to the Cruise Terminal. (We stayed here due to getting a Chase Hyatt card.) It is a beautiful hotel with impeccable service.
After a walk around the Rocks, and lunch in a harbor café, we had a nap before our evening at the opera. “Madama Butterfly” was a dream come true….. Afterwards, with all the city and harbor lights twinkling, we strolled back around the harbor to our hotel that sits under the end of the harbor bridge. It was a memorable end to our cruise experience.
Post Cruise:
When I booked our return airline tickets I was able to get Premium Economy tickets on Air New Zealand for $200 each above the cost of economy. The same glitch that occurred on the outbound flight placed us in regular not preferred seats on the Sydney to Auckland leg of the journey but as it was a short-ish flight that was okay. For the Auckland to LAX leg we were in Premium Economy and what a difference that made! We had wide adjustable seats with lots of legroom. Service was definitely a step up from Economy and very enjoyable. We both slept well.
Again we spent the night at the same hotel near LAX but our bodies did not seem to know what time of day it was so we did not sleep well at all.
The next morning we repacked our bags and sent everything through as checked baggage on our next flights (Southwest). Thankfully we had arranged for a car to pick us up at our local airport and we were back home for dinner.
It has taken me about four days to get over the worst of the jetlag and from experience I know it will be about two weeks before I’m totally readjusted to the altitude we live at.
Would I recommend this cruise – absolutely! Our only regret is not being able to spend more time in New Zealand before the cruise began.
 
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Cabin Review

Cabin
Typical Princess Mini Suite with balcony. Bathroom appeared to be updated and had adjustable shower head on a rod. Bidet was easy to use with side controls.
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